In the Midwest where chill reigns for a quarter of the year, you will find a solemn hearth if you’re lucky in the midst of the woods. Not every preserve has one, but when you happen to spot one, it’s like a treasure. This one is located at Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, IL.
On this day, I only wish I had wood and permission to start a fire, like I did a few years ago at Heller Woods. Click here to see photo.
Instead of seeing the warm glow against the oak trees, I will settle for the warm sounds of nagging nuthatches with their nasally, “heh, heh, heh, heh” keeping me company in those oaks.
How is their sound warm, you ask?
It keeps me there a minute longer, no matter what the temperature, and suddenly the cold disappears.
Posted in art, Artwork, Birds, Chicago, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor sketching, white-breasted nuthatch, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, hiking, IL, knoch knolls, naperville, nature, nuthatch, oak tree, painting, sketch, sketchbook, watercolor, woods
Cold weather, dark gray skies, and the occasional flurries might put many in a gloomy mood. It will force some to stay locked in their houses, giving them an excuse to watch TV for hours and hours.
Then there are the adventurers….
Some extreme adventurers laugh at weather conditions, drill through ice, and sit for hours waiting for that bite. Some weaker adventurers (like myself) laugh at weather conditions just the same, but sit in a nice warm car and sketch extreme adventurers at play. He, he, he.
Winter is truly beautiful, even on the most gloomiest of days. It makes me happy to be out even if it means I have to sketch from my car to keep from freezing. I can appreciate the beauty of nature just the same looking through the window.
Maybe you can try it? If you feel as if you have cabin fever, get in your car and drive to the nearest forest preserve or cemetery. Just sit for 15 minutes and look for interesting things. Can you spot birds? Which way is the wind blowing? Follow the sway of branches. Notice the shapes of dried weeds….they’re all so different. Try to write down what’s going on or maybe even create a little poem. In just a few minutes your mood will suddenly be uplifted.
Goodbye cabin fever.
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor painting, watercolor sketching, weather
Tagged art, Artwork, Herrick Lake, ice fishing, nature, painting, sketch, sketchbook, sketching winter, watercolor, winter
Winter brings out the true character of a tree, exposing every branch, every twig. It reveals the very essence, divulges hidden secrets, and leaves you in a trance as you try to follow one branch with your eyes…from the trunk to the very tip of its tiniest twig. It’s a challenging maze and no two trees are the same.
It is perhaps that challenge of recreating the spirit of the tree on paper which brings me so much joy, but I can only fully understand it in the wintertime. Exposed and silent, it confesses that spirit and somehow I feel as if I’m communicating with its Creator.
That is the mystery of art. Although done in solitude, you are not alone. Your creativity begins a conversation with nature and with God and the best part is, they speak in return.
This apple tree had the setting sun turn selected twigs a golden yellow, while others blushed with rose, and yet a few had a cobalt glow. A downy woodpecker feasted on the suet cake at the feeder, filling up before twilight. That’s the story it told me.
On another day, I chose to study this mulberry tree by drawing in graphite with branch pencils my daughter gave me for Christmas.
Neat pencils! It’s like I’m drawing a branch with a branch.
This winter mulberry tree has a hard lean to the right. Most of it’s branches grew from the right side. To the left of the mulberry tree is a thick evergreen tree. There is struggle for sunlight, resulting in the mulberry’s shape and that’s the story the mulberry tells me.
Let’s go out and paint nature, but more importantly let’s hear the stories nature is trying to tell us. Enjoy.
Posted in art, Artwork, God, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor sketching
Tagged apple tree, art, Artwork, branch pencils, drawing, mulberry, painting, sketch, sketchbook, tree, watercolor, winter
Goldfinch feathers molt into a drab olive green/brown color for winter. Many people upon seeing them assume they are looking at sparrows. Not a few believe goldfinches migrate for the winter because they no longer see that bright, brilliant yellow signature color. Not so! They’re here in their inconspicuous attire still seeking thistle.
In case you cannot find them this winter, as my Christmas gift to you, you may copy this artwork by right clicking on the watercolor above and selecting “Save image as”.
Actual photo of very hungry goldfinches outside my very dirty window. He, he, he.
Fern-Like Frost outside my clean window. Here is proof of the magic of winter… One can zoom in and study patterns in the frost for hours. Well, I sure can!
May your holidays be filled with peace and love.
Posted in american goldfinch, art, Artwork, Birds, Chicago, Free Download, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, goldfinch, painting, sketchbook, watercolor
The Chicago area has been hit by two significant snow storms since winter started. I love snow. Not only is it soothing to watch as it descends, but it dresses the winter trees in their formal attire. How beautiful. Each and every one dazzles.
So, let’s paint a winter tree during an enchanted nighttime snow storm!
I do not have a reference photo but the technique will work with any deciduous winter tree.
Step 1: Draw your tree on a 140lb coldpress watercolor paper with a pencil. My paper size is 6×9. The focal point is the tree itself so in the composition law of thirds, I wanted the tree to fill 2/3 of the paper.
Step 2: Using masking fluid, paint where the snow would land on the branches. I covered the tops of almost every branch. Let completely dry. If you do not wait until it is completely dry, you will ruin your brush. You can make sure it is dry by lightly touching it after about 10 minutes.
Step 3: We are going to paint the sky wet on wet. Using a 1″ flat brush with clean water, wet the paper in the area of the sky and the tree. Brush right over the dried masking fluid. Make sure you do not skip around and leave dry spots. When the shine on the paper disappears, paint ultramarine blue on top and bottom of sky and mauve in the middle. Let the colors blend and touch. You’re literally laying down a few brush strokes and stepping away. Do not over work this.
While the paper is still wet, sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on the paper and let completely dry. When dry tilt your paper and discard the salt.
Step 4: Paint the tree starting at the bottom and work your way up. I used a medium round brush. If you look at the base of the tree I started with a mixture of sepia and ultramarine. As I work my way up, I added mauve to that sepia/ultramarine mixture, then viridian green, lastly at the top alizarin crimson.
Using a small round brush, paint in smaller branches repeating the colors we already used.
Step 5: Rub the masking fluid off with your finger. Paint shadows under the tree using the same sky color on top.
Step 6 Final: Using a small round brush paint a light mixture (meaning less pigment and more water) of prussian blue where the snow touches the branches, making a fine line. This is the shadow color of the snow on the tree.
When everything is dry, take a #3 black micron pen and draw tiny branches/twigs coming from the small branches. Outline the trunk and main branches of the tree to make it stand out.
I hope you enjoyed this free step-by-step demonstration of how to paint a nighttime winter snowstorm.
If you would like to purchase a greeting card ($4.95) or archival print click below. Thank you!
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, nature, watercolor painting, weather
Tagged art, Artwork, Christmas, free step by step painting demonstration, how to, how to paint, how to paint a winter tree, nature, night watercolor scene, nighttime painting, painting, snow, tree, watercolor, winter, winter tree